Cheap older SUVs that can probably do more than the current crop of handbag carriers.
Gone are the days where SUVs are treated as hard tough cars. The current crop are built and designed to conquer the concrete jungle, where bad city roads lead up to shopping malls and offices. It's a sorry state really because a perfectly normal sedan can probably do it better.
Modern SUVs are just jacked up luxury vehicles. They have the ground clearance of an adventure vehicle but do not have any potential to be one.
Although some of them might have the right equipment to tackle off-road adventures, the looks and price of them just won't encourage the owner to do so. Some owners wouldn't even take them to their 'kebun' for that matter because who'd want to stuff their nice and expensive leather kitted SUV with mud infested fruits and vegetables.
So what do you do if you want a cheap hardy adventure SUV to bash around in? Revert back to the nineties of course, and luckily there are some still in service in the used car market, and for around RM20k and under, you can probably get one that can handle the hard stuff as well as that place that millennials call a playground, the shopping mall.
Here are some we found on Carlist.
We don't care what anyone says, the Suzuki Vitara is an ICON. As much as it has off-roading prowess, it is also a well-behaved SUV on the tarmac, something that many other SUVs struggle with. With its ability to provide low range gearing, it's pretty much a go-anywhere vehicle. Its used car prices are low too unlike its cousin the Jimny where prices are becoming a bit ridiculous.
With a 1.6-litre engine, the Vitara is not the most powerful car in the world, but because its lightweight, it does move around efficiently. Parts are still cheap and readily available for the much loved Suzuki SUV, but the star feature of the car is definitely its low range gears. With a bit of modifications to the suspension and tyres, some have even taken it proper off-roading whilst being able to bring their family along for some of that real jungle fun.
Once upon a time, the Daihatsu Feroza was the go-to vehicle for those looking to buy a cheap round town SUV. What they never realised was that it was built to go further than your daily commute around the central business district. Once again thanks to its low range gearing and light weight, it could tiptoe itself around the jungle. It has a 1.6-litre bombproof and reliable engine that sits on a sturdy ladder frame chassis, and although it's not as comfortable as the Vitara, it does gracefully tackle tarmac demands with poise.
Anything with a low range gearbox is golden for tackling the hard stuff, so many have modified the Feroza to be a proper off-road vehicle. Since it is not the biggest car around, those looking for a bit more space would probably look past it, but then again, you can create more of it by taking its roof off which is probably one of the coolest things ever. All Feroza's can do this by the way.
It's a shame that many treat the Mitsubishi IO as a town or 'pasar' car because it has a lot more to offer. Priced a bit higher than the Vitara and Feroza, we can understand why people do not seem to consider it as an option for a fun, cheap adventure car. Still, if you could stomach the slightly higher price, it'll definitely reward you for it.
With an above than average underbody protection for a SUV of its class and time, the IO's boxy yet stylish look definitely has more substance beneath the exterior surface. With a typically reliable 1.8-litre Mitsubishi engine powering the car, it has what it takes to go the distance. Couple that with low gearing, you have here a correct recipe for some off-road fun. Although the IO does look big for a pint-sized SUV, its interior proves otherwise with many criticising the rear legroom.
We can't finish off this collection without having a local hero, and sadly, the only local hero that is appropriate for this group is the ever hardworking Perodua Kembara. Okay, the Kembara might not have low gearing as well as engine power (1.3-litre) like the rest, but it makes up for it through a locking differential and lightweight monocoque body.
Some love the cheap fun of the Kembara so much, they have even gone as far as modifying the permanent 4WD feature where it can toggle between 2WD and 4WD, improving the fuel economy of the vehicle. The Kembara is the cheapest SUV on this list commanding a price of a new kapcai - if that's not value for money, we don't know what is. One of the best things about used Kembaras is that there are plenty of them, so you can be picky and pick whichever one suits your budget or taste.